A community property state is a state in which the law provides that all marital property is divided equally between spouses during a divorce proceeding. This means, in effect, that each spouse is presumed to own an undivided, one-half interest in the property.
Minnesota is not a community property state. In Minnesota, the law provides for an equitable division of marital property rather than an equal division. Put another way, an equitable division of property may mean that it is equal – but it does not have to be equal. Given the Minnesota property division statute, it is entirely possible for one spouse to be awarded more than half of the marital property if the circumstances surrounding the dissolution justify that being the result.
Currently, these are the only community property states in the United States:
- New Mexico;
- Texas; and
Minn. Stat. § 518.58, Subd. 1, provides the following with respect to the factors Minnesota Courts rely on when making determinations on how property is divided:
- the length of the marriage;
- any prior marriage of a party;
- age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, needs, opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets, and income of each party; and
- the contribution of each in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker.
Additionally, the same Statute states that “It shall be conclusively presumed that each spouse made a substantial contribution to the acquisition of income and property while they were living together as husband and wife.” This means, even if a spouse did not work during the marriage and did not have income, it is presumed that he or she made a substantial contribution to the household, and that spouse is therefore entitled to an equitable division of the marital property. A lot of individuals believe that because they were the primary earner, that their spouse would receive less than them relative to a property division. This assumption is false and not warranted under Minnesota law.
There are other factors that can be considered when determining how marital property is divided, including the transfer, concealment, or dissipation of marital assets from one spouse, and non-marital property (generally, this is property acquired prior to marriage).
Property division in Minnesota is a complex endeavor, especially if either spouse has non-marital claims or it is a long-term marriage and/or if a claim is being made that one spouse contributed more to the acquisition and preservation of the marital estate.